Payment service Toss becomes Korea’s newest unicorn after raising $80M

South Korea has got its third unicorn startup after Viva Republica, the company beyond popular payment app Toss, announced it has raised an $80 million round at a valuation of $1.2 billion.

This new round is led by U.S. firms Kleiner Perkins and Ribbit Capital, both of which cut their first checks for Korea with this deal. Others participating include existing investors Altos Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Goodwater Capital, KTB Network, Novel, PayPal and Qualcomm Ventures. The deal comes just six months after Viva Republica raised $40 million to accelerate growth, and it takes the company to nearly $200 million raised from investors to date.

Toss was started in 2013 by former dentist SG Lee who grew frustrated by the cumbersome way online payments worked in Korea. Despite the fact that the country has one of the highest smartphone penetrations rates in the world and is a top user of credit cards, the process required more than a dozen steps and came with limits.

“Before Toss, users required five passwords and around 37 clicks to transfer $10. With Toss users need just one password and three steps to transfer up to KRW 500,000 ($430),” Lee said in a past statement.

Working with traditional finance

Today, Viva Republica claims to have 10 million registered users for Toss — that’s 20 percent of Korea’s 50 million population — while it says that it is “on track” to reach a $18 billion run-rate for transactions in 2018.

The app began as Venmo -style payments, but in recent years it has added more advanced features focused around financial products. Toss users can now access and manage credit, loans, insurance, investment and more from 25 financial service providers, including banks.

Fintech startups are ‘rip it out and start again’ in the West –such as Europe’s challenger banks — but, in Asia, the approach is more collaborative and assistive. A numbe of startups have found a sweet spot in between banks and consumers, helping to match the two selectively and intelligently. In Toss’s case, essentially it acts as a funnel to help traditional banks find and vet customers for services. Thus, Toss is graduating from a peer-to-peer payment service into a banking gateway.

“Korea is a top 10 global economy, but no there’s no Mint or Credit Karma to help people save and spend money smartly,” Lee told TechCrunch in an interview. “We saw the same deep problems we need to solve [as the U.S.] so we’re just digging in.”

“We want to help financial institutions to build on top of Toss… we’re kind of building an Amazon for the financial services industry,” he added. “We try to aggregate all those activities, covering saving accounts, loan products, insurance etc.”

Former dentist SG Lee started Toss in 2013.

Lee said the plan for the new money is to go deeper in Korea by advancing the tech beyond Toss, adding more users and — on the supply side — partnering with more companies to offer financial products.

There’s plenty of competition. Startups like PeopleFund focus squarely on financial products, while Kakao, Korea’s largest messaging platform, has a dedicated fintech division — KakaoPay — which rivals Toss on both payment and financial services. It also counts the mighty Alibaba in its corner courtesy of a $200 million investment from its Ant Financial affiliate.

Alibaba and Tencent tend to move in pairs as opposites, with one naturally gravitating to the rivals of the other’s investees as recently happened in the Philippines. It’s tricky in Korea, though. Tencent is caught in limbo since it is a long-standing Kakao backer. But might the Ant Financial deal spur Tencent into working with Toss?

Lee said his company has a “good relationship” with Tencent, including the occasional home/away visits, but there’s nothing more to it right now. That’s intriguing.

Overseas expansion plans

Also of interest is future plans for the business now that it is taking on significantly more capital from investors who, even with the most patient money out there, eventually need a return on their investment.

Lee is adamant that he won’t sell, despite Viva Republica increasingly looking like an ideal entry point for a payment or finance company that has missed the Korean market and wants in now.

He said that there are plans to do an IPO “at some point,” but a more immediate focus is the opportunity to expand overseas.

When Toss raised a PayPal-led $48 million Series C 18 months ago, Lee told TechCrunch that he was beginning to cast his eyes on opportunities in Southeast Asia, the region of over 650 million consumers, and that’s likely to see definitive action next year. The Viva Republica CEO said that Vietnam could be a first overseas launchpad for Toss.

“We’re thinking seriously about going beyond Korea because sooner or later we will hire saturation point,” Lee said. “We think Vietnam is quite promising. We’ve talked to potential partners and are currently articulating ideas and strategy materialized next year.

“We already have a very successful playbook, we know how to scale among users,” Lee added.

While the plan is still being put together, Lee suggested that Viva Republica would take its time expanding across Southeast Asia, where six distinct countries account for the majority of the region’s population. So, rather than rapidly expanding Toss across those markets, he indicated that a more deliberate, country-by-country launch could be the strategy with Vietnam kicking things off in 2019.

The Toss team at HQ in Seoul, Korea

Korea rising

Toss’s entry into the unicorn club — a vaunted collection of private tech companies valued at $1 billion or more — comes weeks after Coupang, Korea’s top e-commerce company, raised $2 billion at a valuation of $9 billion.

While that Coupang round came from the SoftBank Vision Fund — a source of capital that is threatening to become tainted given its links to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi — it does represent the first time that a Korea-based company has joined the $100 billion mega-fund’s portfolio.

Some milestones can be dismissed as frivolous, but these two coming so close together are a signal of increased awareness of the potential of Korea as a startup destination by investors outside of the country.

While Lee admitted that the unicorn valuation “doesn’t change a lot” in daily terms for his business, he did admit that he has seen the landscape shift for Korea’s startup ecosystem — which has only two other privately-held unicorns: Coupang and Yello Mobile.

“More and more global VCs are aware that South Korea is a really good opportunity to do a startup. It is getting easier for our fellow entrepreneurs to pitch and get access to global funds,” he said, adding that Korea’s top 25 cities have a cumulative population (25 million) that matches America’s top 25.

Despite that potential, Korea has tended to focus on its ‘chaebol’ giants like Samsung — which accounts for a double-digital percentage of the national economy — LG, Hyundai and SK. That means a lot of potential startup talent, both founders and employees, is locked up in secure corporate jobs. Throw in the conservative tradition of family expectations, which can make it hard for children to justify leaving the safety of a big company, and it is perhaps no wonder that Korea has relatively fewer startups compared to other economies of comparable size.

But that is changing.

Coupang has been one of the highest profile examples to follow, alongside the (now public) Kakao business. But with Viva Republica, Toss and a charismatic dentist-turned-founder, another startup story is being written and that could just inspire a future generation of entrepreneurs to rise up and be counted in South Korea.

Samsung fakes test photo by using a stock DSLR image

Samsung’s Malaysian arm has some explaining to do. The company, in an effort to show off the Galaxy A8 Star’s amazing photo retouching abilities, used a cleverly-shot portrait, modified it, and then ostensibly passed it off as one taken by the A8.

The trouble began when Serbian photographer Dunja Djudjic noticed someone had bought one of her photos from a service called EyeEm that supplies pictures to Getty Images, a renowned photo reseller. Djudjic, curious as to the buyer, did a quick reverse search and found her image – adulterated to within an inch of its life – on Samsung’s Malaysian product page.

Djudjic, for her part, was a good sport.

My first reaction was to burst out into laughter. Just look at the Photoshop job they did on my face and hair! I’ve always liked my natural hair color (even though it’s turning gray black and white), but I guess the creator of this franken-image prefers reddish tones. Except in the eyes though, where they removed all of the blood vessels.

Whoever created this image, they also cut me out of the original background and pasted me onto a random photo of a park. I mean, the original photo was taken at f/2.0 if I remember well, and they needed the “before” and “after” – a photo with a sharp background, and another one where the almighty “portrait mode” blurred it out. So Samsung’s Photoshop master resolved it by using a different background.

This move follows a decision by Huawei to pull the same stunt with a demo photo in August.

To be fair, Samsung warned us this would happen. “The contents within the screen are simulated images and are for demonstration purposes only,” they write in the fine print, way at the bottom of the page. Luckily for Djudjic, Samsung paid her for her photo.

Bright spots in the VR market

Virtual Reality is in a public relations slump. Two years ago the public’s expectations for virtual reality’s potential was at its peak. Many believed (and still continue to believe) that VR would transform the way we connect, interact, and communicate in our personal and professional lives.

Google Trends highlighting search trends related to Virtual Reality over time; the “note” refers to an improvement in Google’s data collection system that occurred in early 2016

It’s easy to understand why this excitement exists once you put on a head mounted display. While there are still a limited number of compelling experiences, after you test some of the early successes in the field, it’s hard not to extrapolate beyond the current state of affairs to a magnificent future where the utility of virtual reality technology is pervasive.

However, many problems still exist. The all-in cost for state of the art headsets is still out of reach for the mass market. Most ‘high-quality’ virtual reality experiences still require users to be tethered to their desktops. The setup experience for mass market users is lathered in friction. When it comes down to it, the holistic VR experience is a non-starter for most people. We are effectively in what Gartner refers to as the “trough of disillusionment.”

Gartner’s hype cycle for “Human-Machine Interface” in 2018 places many related VR related fields (e.g., Mixed Reality, AR, HMDs, etc.) in the “Trough of Disillusionment”

Yet, the virtual reality market has continued its slow march to mass adoption, and there are tangible indicators that suggest we could be nearing an inflection point.

A shift towards sustainable hardware growth

What you do and do not consider a virtual reality display can dramatically impact your view on the state of the VR hardware industry. Head-mounted displays (HMDs) can be categorized in three different ways:

  • Screenless viewers — affordable devices that turn smartphones into a VR experience (e.g., Google Glass, Samsung Gear VR, etc.)
  • Standalone HMDs — devices that are not connected to a computer and can independently run content (e.g., Oculus Go, Lenovo Mirage Solo, etc.)
  • Tethered HMDs — devices that are connected to a desktop computer in order to run content (e.g., HTC Vive, Oculus Pro, etc.)

2018 has seen disappointing progress in aggregate headset growth. The overall market is forecasted to ship 8.9M headsets in 2018, up from an approximate aggregate shipment of ~8.3M in 2017, according to IDC. On the surface, those numbers hardly describe a market at its inflection point.

However, most of the decline in growth rate can be attributed to two factors. First, screenless viewers have seen a significant decline in shipments as device manufacturers have stopped shipping them alongside smartphones. In the second quarter of 2018, 409K screenless viewers were shipped compared to approximately 1M in the second quarter of 2017. Second, tethered VR headsets have also declined as manufacturers have slowed down the pricing discounts that acted as a steroid to sales growth in 2017.

Looking at the market for standalone HMDs, however, reveals a more promising figure. Standalone VR headsets grew 417% due to the global availability of the Oculus Go and Xiaomi Mi VR. Over time, these headsets are going to be the driver of the VR market as they offer significant advantages compared to tethered headsets.

The shift from tethered to standalone VR headsets is significant. It represents a paradigm shift within the immersive ecosystem, where developers have a truly mobile platform that is powerful enough to enable compelling user experiences.

IDC forecasts for AR/VR headset market share by form factor, 2018–2022

A premium market segment

There are a few names that come to mind when thinking about products that are available for purchase in the VR market: Samsung, Facebook (Oculus), HTC, and Playstation. A plethora of new products from these marquee names —  and products from new companies entering the market —  are opening the category for a new customer segment.

For the past few years, the market effectively had two segments. The first was a “mass market” segment with notorious devices such as the Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear, which typically sold for under $100 and offered severely constrained experiences to consumers. The second segment was a “pro market” with a few notable devices, such as the HTC Vive, that required absurdly powerful computing rigs to operate, but offered consumers more compelling, immersive experiences.

It’s possible that this new emerging segment will dramatically open up the total addressable VR market. This “premium” market segment offers product alternatives that are somewhat more expensive than the mass market, but are significantly differentiated in the potential experiences that can be offered (and with much less friction than the “pro market”).

The Oculus Go, the Xiaomi Mi VR, and the Lenovo Solo are the most notable products in this segment. They are the fastest growing devices in this segment, and represent a new wave of products that will continue to roll out. This segment could be the tipping point for when we move from the early adopters to the early majority in the VR product adoption curve.

A number of other products have also been released throughout 2018 that fall into this category, such as Lenovo’s Mirage Solo and Xiaomi’s Mi VR. Even more so, Oculus recently announced that  they’ll be shipping a new headset called Quest this spring, which will sell for $399 and will be the most powerful example of a premium device to date. The all-in price range of ~$200–400 places these devices in a segment consumers are already conditioned to pay (think iPad’s, gaming consoles, etc.), and they offer differentiated experiences primarily attributed to the fact that they are standalone devices.

Last minute Cyber Monday deals

Listen, I know you’re tired of deals. I get it. You already woke up at 1AM on Black Friday to head to Best Buy in your pajama pants. But if we just stick together and follow the rules, we’ll get through the holiday gift season in one piece. We got this.

What follows is far from a comprehensive list of the deals you’ll be able to find online today, but should help you get started on your holiday shopping — or just pick up a little something for yourself, if you’re so inclined.

Ring Video Doorbell 2 ($60 off) – As always, Amazon’s flooding Cyber Monday with deals on its own devices. At 30-percent, with a third-gen Echo Dot thrown in, the Ring doorbell just might be the best of the bunch.

Buy a Samsung Galaxy, get an Echo Show free – Amazon’s also got some deep discounts on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, S9 and S9+, with bundled Echo devices thrown in for good measure. Sorry Bixby.

Apple iPad ($80 off) – Walmart’s got a bunch of deals on Apple products — while supplies last.

Apple Watch Series 3 ($50 off) – Sure it’s not the latest version — but it’s still a solid deal for the holidays.

Fitbit Ionic ($70 off) – The Versa is admittedly the better of Fitbit’s new smartwatches, but $70 off is a solid deal for the larger device. 

GoPro Hero7 ($70 off) – A solid discount for the leading action cam. 

A closer look at Royole’s foldable display

You’d be forgiven if Royole doesn’t ring any bells. Even here China, it’s far from a household name. Still, the Shanghai-based startup recently secured an undisclosed Series E, vaulting its valuation to an apparent $5 billion, up from $3 billion in late 2016.

Founded in 2012, Royole’s best-known release was a wearable cinema display. That changed last month, however, when it surprised the industry by announcing the imminent arrival of the FlexPai, a flexible screen smartphone that appears on track to to beat the Samsung Galaxy X to market.

The FlexPai’s anticipated December release seemingly came out of nowhere. Like competitors, Royole had shown off its proprietary folding technology as part of a standalone demos, but it hadn’t teased the arrival of a smartphone until the device was ready to ship. It’s a far cry, certainly, from the not ready for prime time prototype Samsung marched out on stage last month.

At an event in Shenzhen, CEO Bill Liu told TechCrunch that the company was built around the desire to bring the technology to market. “We started from the flexible displays and flexible sensors,” he explained. “We started the company with a focus on the flexible displays and sensors. And then along the way, we realized this could be a huge application for the technology.”

A foldable smartphone was simply the first product that made sense for the underlying tech. With development dating back a half-dozen year, Royole was the first to achieved the industry’s long standing goal of delivering a foldable screen — beating even the massive Samsung to market.

Being first isn’t always a blessing in this industry, but it’s an impressive feat, nonetheless. The FlexPai is real. I can’t speak to the scalability of the product, until it actually starts shipping out next month, but I can attest to the fact that at least one of the things exists in the world. I held it in my hands. I folded it. It worked.

It’s a difficult problem and Royole solved it with in-house technologies. No one can take that away from the company. I can’t say my initial apprehensions were ultimately dissuaded, however. The FlexPai mostly works as desired, but the execution isn’t what ultimately the kind of premium product one would expect, given the ultra-premium price tag (around $1,300 American).

Liu happily dropped the phone a couple of times on stage, in an attempt to put to rest any durability question. While the display ultimately didn’t crack or scratch, the flexible material looks almost like cellophane and sports crinkles that catch the light — the clarity also leaves something to be desire.

As far as portability, it’s true that you can fold it up and stuff it in your pocket, though it’s pretty chunky when you do so. Ultimately, these are first generation products — and likely a result of a company pushing to be first to market, knowing full well that companies like Samsung were breathing down its neck.

Royole sees potential to license the technology out for other categories. “Right now for the smartphone industry, we haven’t done any licensing,” said Liu. “For industrial applications like automotive or media, we do have customers. We sell the licenses to them, and we’ve already sold a lot of licenses.”

The company will also be working with developers to create content for the new form factor, with a $30 million program it launched last month. The Chinese version is due out in December.

 

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Metacert’ Cryptonite can catch phishing links in your email

Metacert, founded by Paul Walsh, originally began as a way to watch chat rooms for fake Ethereum scams. Walsh, who was an early experimenter in cryptocurrencies, grew frustrated when he saw hackers dumping fake links into chat rooms, resulting in users regularly losing cash to scammers.

Now Walsh has expanded his software to email. A new product built for email will show little green or red shields next to links, confirming that a link is what it appears to be. A fake link would appear red while a real PayPal link, say, would appear green. The plugin works with Apple’s Mail app on the iPhone and is called Cryptonite.

“The system utilizes the MetaCert Protocol infrastructure/registry,” said Walsh. “It contains 10 billion classified URLs. This is at the core of all of MetaCert’s products and services. It’s a single API that’s used to protect over 1 million crypto people on Telegram via a security bot and it’s the same API that powers the integration that turned off phishing for the crypto world in 2017. Even when links are shortened? MetaCert unfurls them until it finds the real destination site, and then checks the Protocol to see if it’s verified, unknown or classified as phishing. It does all this in less that 300ms.”

Walsh is also working on a system to scan for Fake News in the wild using a similar technology to his anti-phishing solution. The company is raising currently and is working on a utility token.

Walsh sees his first customers as enterprise and expects IT shops to implement the software to show employees which links are allowed, i.e. company or partner links, and which ones are bad.

“It’s likely we will approach this top down and bottom up, which is unusual for enterprise security solutions. But ours is an enterprise service that anyone can install on their phone in less than a minute,” he said. “SMEs isn’t typically a target market for email security companies but we believe we can address this massive market with a solution that’s not scary to setup and expensive to support. More research is required though, to see if our hypothesis is right.”

“With MetaCert’s security, training is reduced to a single sentence ‘if it doesn’t have a green shield, assume it’s not safe,” said Walsh.

Gearing up to step into virtual reality

Editor’s note: This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and TechCrunch may earn affiliate commissions.

For the past two years, we’ve been closely following the advances of new VR experiences. Much of this gear is still in development, but if you’re eager to dive in and get a sense of what’s available right now, we’ve put together our current recommendations for mobile, PC, console and budget VR headsets.

The Oculus Go is light enough to wear comfortably, but it’s still a bit front-heavy. (Photo: Signe Brewster)                          

Standalone Headset: Oculus Go

The Oculus Go is a standalone headset  that doesn’t require a PC, game console or mobile phone to run. The Go comes with a sharp built-in screen and a comfortable controller that convincingly puts your hand in whatever virtual world you’re exploring. It’s compatible with Oculus games and shares the Stream VR app library with the Samsung Gear VR, so there are enough games to keep you busy for hours.

You can also watch movies and TV via streaming services. Its straps fit around the sides and over the top of your head and it’s light enough that you’ll forget you’re wearing it. Although its field of view is wider and its lenses are better than Gear VR’s, its screen resolution is lower. While you can move your head from left to right, up and down, and forward and backwards, your view won’t change when you tilt your head.

For what it currently offers, we think the Oculus Go is bit pricey, and some people might want to wait for the Oculus Quest next year. But the Go’s hardware is impressive and it’s the best overall standalone headset for most people right now.

Photo: Signe Brewster

VR Headset for PC: Oculus Rift + Touch

Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned gamer, the Oculus Rift + Touch VR headset for PC provides an enjoyable experience that’s easy to navigate and deeply immersive. The Rift + Touch has three cords, one that’s tethered to your PC — which gives the system more processing power — and two that are connected to its included sensors. It’s the most comfortable headset we tested, fitting to wear over long periods of time, and easy to set up. Playing games with it calls for a bit of space; Rift recommends at least a 5-by-5 box.

We found that gameplay in a larger area (a 5-by-11 space) is even better. You’ll be able to interact within and see different parts of virtual worlds through head movements and by stepping from side to side. We like that its controllers are balanced and that the system comes with its own set of headphones. Like the Oculus Go, the Rift + Touch can be used with Oculus and Stream VR games.

Photo: Signe Brewster                                                                                                                                                   

PS4 Headset: Sony PlayStation VR Bundle

If you already own a PlayStation 4 and want to give virtual reality a try, we recommend doing so with the Sony PlayStation VR. This system’s tracking isn’t as powerful as a high-end PC’s, but it still offers an incredibly immersive experience. Tracked by the PlayStation VR camera, the Move controllers are responsive and one of the system’s best features.

The bundle we recommend comes with two Move controllers, a camera, and the Skyrim VR game — it’s important to note that PlayStation VR bundles are frequently discontinued and the only difference in the newer versions have been the featured game. Unlike our VR headset for PC picks, PlayStation VR does not have separate screens for each eye and it has a higher refresh rate for a high-quality visual experience. The headset fits more like a hard hat as opposed to goggles, but it’s one of the most comfortable headsets we tested.

Photo: Signe Brewster

Mobile Headset: Samsung Gear VR

Samsung Gear VR is the best VR headset made for a phone — but it’s only compatible with Samsung Galaxy and Note smartphones. It can be used with a broad variety of apps and games, and overall offers the best mobile VR experience. We like its UI and that there’s more to explore within its app ecosystem than with than with our runner-up pick, the Google Daydream View.

Its headset has adjustable straps, comfortable padding and a lens adjustment dial. The Gear VR’s controller is intuitive, easy to hold and connects to your phone over Bluetooth. Instead of tracking every hand movement, the remote is primarily limited to pointing and clicking, but its trigger button and trackpad feel natural and still give you a sense of immersion. It’s a bit heavier to wear than other mobile VR headsets we tested, but it fits better to the face for some and is more secure.

Aside from puzzle, shooting and adventure titles, you can download any Oculus games you already own and play them with the Gear VR for free. If you don’t own one of Samsung’s flagship phones, we recommend the Google Daydream View, or the standalone Oculus Go.

Photo: Signe Brewster

Budget VR & AR Headset: Merge VR/AR Goggles

If you don’t need the absolute best experience and want an inexpensive way to try VR for the first time, Merge VR/AR Goggles for Google Cardboard is the best offering. Compared to the other six budget headsets we tested, we preferred its combination of adjustability, price and comfort. It’s an upgrade from Cardboard and is still compatible with Google’s ecosystem of apps.

We like that it doubles as an augmented reality headset that can be paired with the Merge Cube and Merge’s curated VR library. You can play games, go on virtual expeditions, and watch films with the Merge VR/AR Goggles. It works with more phones (including iPhones). But that makes the quality feel a bit lower than experiences tailored for specific mobile systems. So long as you have a smartphone with a large screen and high resolution you’ll get a decent introductory VR experience.

These picks may have been updated by WirecutterWhen readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and TechCrunch may earn affiliate commissions.

Samsung acquires network analytics startup Zhilabs to help its transition to 5G

Samsung Electronics is betting that acquiring Zhilabs, a real-time networks analytics startup based in Barcelona, will ease its transition from 4G to 5G technologies. Financial details of the deal, which was announced today, have not been disclosed. Zhilabs will be fully owned by Samsung, but it will continue to operate independently under its own management.

The acquisition of Zhilabs is part of Samsung’s initiative, announced in August, to invest 25 trillion won (about $22 billion) in businesses working on AI, 5G, components for self-driving vehicles, and biopharmaceutical technologies.

In a statement, Youngky Kim, Samsung Electronic’s president and head of networks business, said “5G will enable unprecedented services attributed to the generation of exponential data traffic, for which automated and intelligent network analytics tools are vital. The acquisition of Zhilabs will help Samsung meet these demands to assure each subscriber receives the best possible service.”

Founded in 2008, Zhilabs’ products are used by customers including Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Vodafone, and Telefonica to analyze and test network performance in real-time. Because its solutions allow service issues to be automatically detected and fixed, Zhilabs’ AI-based automation will help Samsung launch new services related to the industrial Internet of Things and smart cars.

Samsung forecasts record $15.5B profit thanks to chips not smartphones

Samsung’s last quarter of business saw its slowest growth of profits in a year thanks to weak sales of its flagship Galaxy S9 smartphone. But the company is about much more than just phones, and that’s why it is forecasting a record operating profit of nearly $15.5 billion for its upcoming Q3 results.

The Korean firm said in a filing that it expects to revenue jump five percent year-on-year to hit 65 trillion KRW ($57.5 billion) with an operating profit of 17.5 trillion KRW ($15.5 billion), which represents a 20 percent annual jump and an 18 percent increase on the previous quarter.

Samsung’s pre-earnings filings are brief and don’t contain detailed information about the performance of its business units, thus we can’t assess demand for its high-end phones — which include the Note 9 — in the quarter that Apple unveiled its newest iPhones. But the clues suggest that it is actually the more boring (but reliable) divisions that are, once again, responsible for Samsung’s strong forecast.

Chips account for some 80 percent of Samsung’s revenue and demand for DRAM, which is important in areas such as cloud, pushed prices up during Q3 but analysts suspect that the growth won’t last.

“Its earnings appeared to have peaked,” Mirae Asset Daewoo Securities analyst William Park told Reuters. “DRAM prices are going to fall, although not dramatically, and that will negatively impact its margins.”

We’ll know more when Samsung releases its full earnings this month.

Samsung chairman indicted on anti-union charges

More problems for Samsung executives this week, as chairman Lee Sang-hoon is indicted on union sabotage charges. Lee’s not alone — twenty-seven other Samsung employees and partners are also being hit with similar charges.

The charges are considered a kind of validation after years of concern over the electronics giant’s approach to organized labor. Lee has been in his current role since March, but previously served as Samsung’s CFO. During that time, the top-level executive was reportedly involved in threatening to cut wages and end business dealings with union-friendly contractors.

Lee is, of course, not the only high-level Samsung executive to be hit with legal charges of late. Last year, Vice Chairman and heir apparent Jay Y. Lee was given a five-year prison sentence over charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury, though that sentence was later suspend and the decision reversed.

Regardless of what happens to these new charges, it seems pretty fair to say that the consumer electronics and chipmaking giant is long overdue for a overhaul among its executive ranks.